What is weight based discrimination?
To me personally, weight based discrimination looks like this: To those around me I am the “skinny bitch!” In my personal encounter with the “skinny bitch” phenomenon, it’s either I am on a diet, and people are dying to know what to do to look just like me. OR it’s that I am one of those girls who can eat anything she wants and doesn’t gain a pound. I tell them it is in my genes, I have a high activity level and I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, then they give me this confused look. Then there is this sense of heaviness between me and this person, a sense of resentment. I don’t feel good about that! Now what was once just a number from a scale has now characterized myself as a person and my health. This is called weight-based discrimination. It goes both ways. For “fat” people too.
Lazy. Stupid. Worthless. From news media and magazines to professional conferences and government reports, these are the words often used to describe overweight and obese individuals. The endorsements of such stereotypes often lead to extreme weight loss practices which can induce feelings of guilt and shame.
Weight and BMI are poor predictors of disease and longevity. The bulk of epidemiological evidence suggests that five pounds “underweight” is more dangerous than 75 pounds “overweight.” Multiple studies are suggesting that a focus on weight as a health criterion is often misdirected and harmful. There are “normal” people that are sicker than overweight people. There are many factors to consider when evaluating the connections between weight and health. Fitness, activity, nutrient intake, weight cycling or socioeconomic status as well as emotional support systems and social interactions are all relevant to someone’s quality of life, health, and wellness status.
Have you heard of The Health At Every Size® (HAESSM)? The Health At Every Size® (HAESSM) approach is an alternative to the weight/size-based paradigm upon which much current public health policy is based. The Health At Every Size principles are: Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes. Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects. Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes. Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure. Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.
In a study comparing the HAES model to a diet approach, though only dieters lost weight, both groups initially had similar improvements in metabolic fitness, activity levels, psychological measures, and eating behaviors. After two years, dieters had regained their weight and lost the health improvements, while the HAES group sustained their health improvements. Restrictive dieting is an ineffective long-term prescription for “obesity,” as up to 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost, and sometimes more, within three years. Restrictive dieting and weight cycling can lead to physical complications including slowed metabolism, reduced muscle tissue and body temperature, and eating disorders. Weight-loss surgery (WLS) intentionally damages healthy organs in order to force adherence to a restrictive diet and incurs a host of short- and long-term risks including death and malnutrition.
We need to shift the focus, and question how and when weight discrimination became acceptable? Shift the focus and reclaim our right to health and well being regardless of our size. Shift the Focus, and put an end to weight-based discrimination.
How can you shift the focus? First, STOP ALL “Fat Talk!” Don’t compare your body to others. Appreciate your body for what it can do. Turn a negative into a positive. Instead of “I’m stocky,” try “I’m strong!” Never Fat Talk in front of your kids or friends. Exercise and engage in physical activity without a goal of weight loss. Feeling guilty — consuming, upsetting GUILT — is not a normal, healthy reaction to eating. Guilt is internal Fat Talk. Eat in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure.
We all have a word that encompasses our struggles. It may or may not have to do with your weight. This word is a result of our experiences in life, how we were raised, how others treated us, how we perceive ourselves, how we might compare ourselves to others….this word describes our most deepest vulnerabilities and fears. Check out this powerful video, illustrating this: http://youtu.be/szi0fJxpwOI
What is your word? For me it’s REJECTION.
Find out what that word might be for you, embrace it, and discover that despite this insecurity, you still have SELF WORTH. We all face daily struggles and discrimination as humans. By realizing this and seeing that everyone has their own struggles, we will all have more of an understanding to form a more loving and accepting world, not only for ourselves, but others as well. Unity is power, and through power we can change lives.